YOU are my kid's teacher??

To generalize the overall competency in any profession is a difficult thing, as every profession is comprised of a group of individual contributors. Some physicians, for example, become world renown based on their set of skills. Other physicians, on the other hand, would do well to find another livelihood based on their shortcomings. Regardless, to become a doctor requires specific training and certification.

An interesting decision was made in my home state of Indiana this week in regard to the training required to become a public school teacher. It is, I feel, a questionable decision as it seems to lower the standards necessary in order to obtain what many consider to be one of the most vital roles in society; the training and educating of our children.

The Indiana State Board of Education voted 9-2 to create a new “adjunct teacher permit”, allowing any bachelor’s degree holder with a 3.0 or better grade point average the opportunity to immediately teach a subject for which they can pass a test in an Indiana classroom. A degree in Education is not required, nor is any previous training in child development, child psychology or anything else related to how to run a classroom.

Now I don’t doubt the sincerity or interest level of someone who has studied history, as an example. In order to maintain a 3.0 GPA means that person stayed awake in class and paid attention, not to mention passed all of their tests. That’s a good thing! Transferring that base of knowledge to a classroom full of disinterested students with raging hormones, however, is a different matter entirely. Since there is already an abundance of teachers for most subjects (math and science might be the exception) one has to wonder what has prompted this decision that was recommended by the outgoing State Superintendent Tony Bennett (I’m not sure if he left his heart in San Francisco but he may have left some common sense there).

For those of us who suffer through the “9 to 5” with only a few weeks of vacation every year, becoming a school teacher can be an attractive concept. Who wouldn’t want a job that gave us the entire summer off, a two week vacation at Christmastime and another week of vacation in the spring? Additional and numerous days off throughout the year as well as a workday that begins at 8:30 AM or so and ends by 3:30 PM sounds pretty good to me! The pay isn’t so great at first, but it gets better as the years go by. The pension plan is usually pretty good too! There’s much more, however, that is involved when tackling this particular profession. I guess if it was that easy to be a teacher, everyone would do it.

I can relate first hand that working in a classroom can turn a short work schedule into a very long day. Once upon a time, I packed a four year college degree in Education into five grueling years. It wasn’t easy, but I made it through. I was convinced that I could become a superb educator and a perennial state championship baseball coach…until I completed my “student teaching” experience during my final year in school. It was at time that I had realized if I were to actually pursue a career in teaching that I would no doubt eventually end up convicted of “kidslaughter” and spend the rest of my days in the pokey. I had neither the temperament nor the patience to fully succeed in teaching. All of this was discovered after spending years learning about child behavior, psychology and other various issues dealing with the psyches of our youth. So, instead I pursued a career in business which I've been happy with, for the most part.

Fast forward many years and I found myself downsized from a job that I held for more than two decades. At that point, I thought that I may have over the years developed the patience and temperament needed that I might now explore teaching as a second career. Since I wasn’t truly sure about fully committing to such a project, I thought that by doing some substitute teaching I might know the answer once and for all.

About all I can say to anyone who has any desire to become a school teacher is this; do yourself a favor and fill out an application to become a “sub”. Teachers take sick days all of the time and you are sure to be called into action. When I was first called in to substitute teach, I was faced with a classroom of 25 second graders staring at me and looking for guidance. Good luck, kids. Although I knew the material to be presented and I was trained (albeit years ago) for the mission, by the end of the day I was suffering from near-exhaustion.

There are dynamics involved with teaching that extend far beyond the subject matter alone. Simply keeping a group of 25-30 children quiet, let alone engaged, for any period of time is a major accomplishment. Toss in a “class clown” or two and the door to mayhem is now wide open.

I encountered a few of those “clown” types in the weeks that I served as a substitute teacher. One young 5th grade lad aggravated me to the point of mashing my teeth a la Clint Eastwood until I finally banished him to the hallway. It was after an hour or so that one of the other students asked me when I was going to let the clown child back into the room. I can admit to it now, but I had forgotten that the little rascal was even gone and I must say that the time without him was quite pleasant. It was at about that time that I realized teaching was probably not a good career choice for me.

I would think that there are some people out there who are simply born to teach, with or without the appropriate training. I would also think, however, that they would be the exceptions to the rule. Teaching and training involves a set of learned skills that are most usually not in-born traits. Simply having a knowledge base in a particular subject does not immediately qualify someone to assume one of the most important roles in our society today; educating our youth.

Why this new rule was implemented by the Indiana State Board of Education and basically rushed through at the end of Bennett’s term is curious and a mystery. Although this rule may help to fill some teaching positions in an urgent situation, I would also think it opens doors to impropriety. Nepotism and patronage may very well come into play in some systems, as teaching positions may be filled by those less prepared and qualified than those who have dedicated their lives to the field of education. This is a bad idea.

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